Tag Archives: Teenagers

Actually, I wrote these tips about twenty years ago but they were recently reprinted in HomeWord’s January 2013 Parent Newsletter. Here they are for a whole new generation of parents:

Parenting adolescents can be a scary prospect, as kids get older and begin to create some distance between them and us. Still, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. There are some simple, yet powerful steps we can take in order to ensure our influence level remains high. Here are twelve tips you can use right away that will make your responsibilities as a parent a bit easier to manage.

  1. When your teenager comes home from school today, smile when he or she walks through the door. Do that several days in a row and your kid will actually look forward to coming home!
  2. Next time your teenager tries to be funny … laugh.
  3. Make a list of all the things your teenager does that makes you mad. Now, go through the list and cross off all the stuff that doesn’t really matter. Save your anger only for those things which have lasting moral consequences.
  4. Take your teenager out for breakfast or lunch once a week. Promise yourself that you won’t use that time to lecture or nag. Just listen and talk about good stuff.
  5. Invite your teenager’s friends to your house for pizza, soft drinks and a movie rental. Extra points if you can secure a big-screen TV or video projector.
  6. Ask your teenager to play his/her favorite music on your stereo. Listen and discuss the music with him or her. Find out why he/she likes it so much. Try to avoid criticism.
  7. Think of something positive you can say to your teenager today … and say it.
  8. Put a love note (from you) in your teenager’s backpack or lunch sack.
  9. Before you criticize your teenager’s behavior, try remembering your own teenage years. Chances are it will help you communicate better.
  10. Love your spouse. A strong family provides security for teenagers.
  11. Respect your teenager’s privacy. Snooping without a legitimate reason is a no-no.
  12. Communicate your plans to your teenager frequently. Let him/her know where you are, when you’ll be home, what you’re doing. This sets a good example that will encourage them to do the same thing for you.
Bonus tips:
  1. Be patient with your kids. Growing up takes time … but they will grow up.
  2. Learn to trust your kids more. The more trust you give them, the more opportunities they will have to prove themselves trustworthy.
  3. Keep your sense of humor. Healthy families are laughing families!
  4. Pray daily for your kids. Remember, God loves them even more than you do!

Do you think they still hold up after all these years? Any other tips that need to be added to this list?


Category: Ministry, Parenting

Each month I try to feature a live bluegrass band on my radio program–usually whoever is appearing at the local San Diego Bluegrass Society’s 4th Tuesday event at the Boll Weevil Restaurant. I heard that a group from Orange County called the Wimberly Bluegrass Band was going to be appearing at the June SDBS event, so I wasn’t real sure if they would be coming down to appear on my radio show or not. I wasn’t familiar with them and I hadn’t heard anything directly from them (or the SDBS) to confirm their appearance on my radio show. So when I arrived at the radio station Sunday night, I wasn’t absolutely sure if anyone was going to show up.

But there they were! What a surprise to find this young, good looking group at the front door of the radio station ready to play! The Wimberly’s are a family group, three brothers and a sister ranging in age from 13 to 19 who are self-taught and have already recorded two CD’s. Mom and Dad accompanied the group to the studio and unlike many “stage parents” I’ve been around, they were extremely calm and content to let the youngsters speak for themselves and do their own thing. I was very impressed with them and wasn’t surprised at all to hear that they were home schooled. That certainly explained why they were so articulate and comfortable around an old codger like me, and how they developed a fondness for bluegrass and country music rather than what’s being marketed to the teen population these days.

If you would like to hear them on my show, visit the kson.com/bluegrass web site … it will be there for a month. They will also be appearing at many Southern California bluegrass events, so keep an eye and ear out for them. This is a group with a lot of appeal and I think they will have lots of success coming their way.


Who or what is the most powerful influence on teenagers? Who do teenagers look up to most as role models? These questions (or questions similar to them) have formed the basis for dozens of studies on teenagers that have been conducted over the years. The issue of teen influence is heavily researched because marketers are well aware that teenagers control an estimated 300 billiion dollars per year of discretionary income. They also know that if you can sell a teenager on a brand or product while they are young, there’s a strong likelihood they will remain loyal for the rest of their lives. That’s also one of the reasons why I believe so much in youth ministry. Lifelong disciples of Jesus are more often than not called while they are teenagers. That was true for me as it was for a number of Jesus’ original twelve.

Primary influences on teenagers (from the seminar presentation "Understanding Your Teenager.")

So another study on teen influence has been conducted (this one by the Barna Group) and the results of that new study were just released. The good news for me is that I won’t have to revise any of my teaching notes on this subject anytime soon. Well, I may need to update the clothing styles on the kids on our graphic at the right, but otherwise, everything stays the same.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been teaching and writing that the most powerful influences on teenagers are not (as some might suppose) the entertainment media and same-age peers. The primary influences on teenagers are (1) their parents, followed next by (2) their extended family (grandparents and other close relatives), then (3) caring adults like teachers, coaches, youth ministers and others who care enough to come alongside them in some meaningful way. This was not only true for me personally but it was confirmed by several studies that were conducted almost thirty years ago.

What’s interesting about the more recent studies on this topic is that researchers now assume the dominant position of parents in the pecking order of teen influence. That was not always the case. David Kinneman, who conducted the Barna reseach, explains that “parents were left out of the assessment because so many teenagers—particularly younger ones—have high regard for their parents or feel compelled to list their parents as role models. Previous research shows that mentioning parents is almost … automatic.” So the question teenagers were asked in this study was “Who, besides your parents, do you admire the most as a role model?”

Their answer? The most commonly mentioned role model according to this new study is a relative, most typically a grandparent. Next on the list—you guessed it—teachers and coaches. Way down the list (after people they know personally) come celebrities, politicians, sports heroes, musicians and the like.

When asked why they chose who they did as role models, teenagers responded by saying that these people “are always there for me” or “are most interested in my future.”

Who influenced you most when you were a teenager?


Category: Ministry

OK, I know bluegrass isn’t going to replace hip hop anytime soon as the music of choice for teenagers, but I’m no longer surprised by groups like the The Doerfels who suddenly appear out of nowhere.  I don’t know too much about this family band except they are from Florida and just released a new CD featuring some of their original songs.  The senior member (T.J. on banjo) is only 20 years old, joined by his sister Kimberly (19 on fiddle), and brothers Eddy (16 on mandolin), Joe (14 on bass) and Ben (13 on guitar).  Check out this video:

I sometimes point to groups like this when I hear some of my colleagues express pessimism about the extent to which parents and other adults can influence teenagers in today’s media-saturated world.  Let’s be honest here, teenagers who embrace and perform bluegrass music are not the norm.  These are kids who have grown up in an environment, usually provided by their parents, where they have had constant exposure to the music and lots of encouragement from a community of bluegrass music fans.

I’ve spent time with many of these young musicians, like Nickel Creek (Chris Thile, Sean and Sara Watkins) who grew up here in the San Diego area.  Also the Cherryholmes family, who also came from Southern California and have become one of bluegrass music’s biggest success stories.  There are many more just like them.  The Wright Kids, who were finalists on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” show and The Clark Brothers, who won Fox TV’s “The Next Great American Band” competition a couple of years ago.   I’m always impressed not only by the talent and skill of these kids on their musical instruments, but with how well-adjusted they are and how articulate and comfortable they are around adults.

So how did these kids become such accomplished bluegrass musicians?  Did they find the sound of the banjo and fiddle too cool to resist?

To understand these kids, you have to meet their parents.  I’ve met some of them and it’s clear that they made a choice when their kids were little to create a family culture that was centered around bluegrass music.  In almost every case, these kids were home schooled and taught music as part of their curriculum.  They made field trips to bluegrass festivals where they learned to play (jam) with adult musicians who were more than happy to  show them how to improve their playing.  I also have a hunch their parents turned off the TV and spent a lot of time playing and singing with their kids.

I know most people would shudder at their thought of their kids forming a bluegrass band, but I do think there’s something we can learn from these families about how to raise children up in the Christian faith.


Category: Bluegrass, Ministry

I found this newly-released book at a bookstore the other day and couldn’t resist buying it. teenagers-suck-joanne-kimes-paperback-cover-artWritten by a couple of comedians and a therapist, the back cover reads: “Is it any wonder … Most people go through mid-life crises when their kids are teenagers? … Fewer parents are grounding their teenagers–to avoid being stuck at home with them?” And so on. The authors describe their book pretty well in the intro: “This is not a book about parenting teenagers. It’s a book on how to survive parenting teenagers.”

In my parenting seminars I usually tell parents that how you treat teenagers often determines how they respond, how they behave, how they feel. If you treat them as problems, they’ll give you problems. If you treat them like children, they’ll act like children. If you have a low view of them, they’ll live down to our expectations. We are in a sense mirrors to help them determine their identity and self-image.

So in our seminars we try to help parents appreciate the positive aspects of adolescence and encourage them to “catch their kids in the act of doing something good” whenever possible. Discouraged parents only discourage their children.

Needless to say, I don’t think I’d want to leave this book lying around the house for my kids to see.

To be fair, there’s actually some pretty decent parenting advice between the covers. For example, the authors advise against over-indulging teenagers with money and material things:

“First off, realize that teenagers are expensive to maintain. (Think of them as yachts with messy rooms.) Secondly, make sure they realize it too. The more you can steer your teen toward Appreciation and away from Entitlement, the better your chances of maintaining some non-gray hairs. This is where you dust off your ‘When I was your age, my allowance was a nickel and I wasn’t allowed to spend it all in one place!’ stories. You know you have them. And if you don’t, use the ones your parents told you.”

The book was written by Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD.


Category: Ministry